AME Awards Grand Jury Spotlight Interview: Robert Mitchell

AME Grand Jury member Robert Mitchell is Founding Partner of Driving Growth Dubai.

New York, NY | January 10, 2017

The AME Awards Grand Jury of award-winning industry experts represent the most creatives minds in advertising, marketing and communications and these industry pro’s are instrumental in selecting the World’s Best Advertising & Marketing Effectiveness. AME’s regional juries allow entries to be judged with cultural relevance within their own regions: Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America, Middle East & Africa, and North America. Gold-winning work from all regions is then judged by the full international Grand Jury to determine a Platinum Award for each of the five regions.

AME Grand Jury member Robert Mitchell is Founding Partner of Driving Growth Dubai. He has developed and managed blue-chip global brands including BMW, Jeep, Volkswagen and Samsung. Robert joined Foote Cone Belding in 1999, where he worked primarily in Asia, leaving the network in 2007 with responsibility for over sixty countries and the title of Worldwide Creative Director. He was then hired to setup and run a Dubai-owned boutique agency with offices throughout the Middle East. In 2016, Robert established his own agency in Dubai, Driving Growth, with a core focus on integrated Digital, Live Events and PR.

Keep reading to find out more about Robert including insights on which countries are producing standout creative work, the hallmarks of an award-winning entry, his favorite ad that he created, the defining moment in his career and so much more.

AME Awards: Why did you agree to judge this year’s AME Awards?

Robert Mitchell: 2016 will be remembered as the year in history when predictability officially went the same way as the dinosaurs. With unexpected polling outcomes in the US, the UK and Europe, oil prices in the doldrums, equity prices in the clouds, and political and social divisions deepening everywhere, now more than ever clients are looking to understand more about how and when the marketing dollars they invest will actually payback. Being a judge gives me the unusual privilege of seeing not only the amazing entries that win AME Awards but also the ones that don’t, and understanding more about what creates that critical difference.

AME Awards: What are the hallmarks of an award-winning campaign?

Robert Mitchell: As Jeremy Sinclair, founding Director of M&C Saatchi put it, the brutal simplicity of thought. I believe that simplicity is always the single biggest factor in creativity and as someone smarter than me once said: creativity that doesn't work is not advertising, and advertising that’s not creative doesn’t work…and they were right!

AME Awards: In your opinion how does cultural/social change influence regional work?

Robert Mitchell: Look at the region I work in now, the Middle East. In the broader region, there are around 400 million Arabic speakers with over half of them under the age of 25; the regional economy is significantly larger than for example Germany, Japan or even neighbouring India, the world’s fastest growing. Then look at some of the creative work coming out of Dubai and compare it to, let’s say, Saudi Arabia, you’ll see very deep cultural and social differences that affect the approach and execution of marketing communications; the Dubai work is much closer to the US or Europe.

AME Awards: What makes the AME Awards stand out from other competitions?

Robert Mitchell: The world has many, many creative awards and also a good few marketing effectiveness awards, but I think that AME has uniquely found the right balance and recognises that creativity is one of the core factors for effective marketing. By judging internationally across such a broad panel of experienced judges, AME ensures that the awarded work is based on effective insights and genuinely big ideas that transcend the boundaries of language and nationality.

AME Awards: How do the entries differ from country to country?

Robert Mitchell: Still a great deal and I think that in many cases that’s a failing of our industry. Even if four companies own well over 80 per cent of the world’s agencies today, in many cases the structures are simply not there to facilitate true global marketing. As manufacturing business has evolved from factories that produced multiple products for one country, to today’s scenario where frequently one factory in one country makes one product for the whole world, the same is rarely true for marketing communications. However, where global brands and agencies have collaborated closely to create clear structures the results are often very effective for all concerned, in terms of cost savings and creativity, but it’s still too small a share of the work that’s out there.

AME Awards: What countries and markets are producing exceptionally strong work and in which mediums?

Robert Mitchell: The past fifteen years has seen an explosion in the number of potential media channels and I think everyone is struggling to figure out how to manage them all. That’s why it is so refreshing to see breakthrough work coming out of tiny countries like Denmark or Switzerland, for example, using media in unusual ways against very small budgets to drive response. Just imagine you multiplied the creative output of Denmark seventy-five times over to match the size of the United States in terms of population, I think you might find the Danes giving the US a good run for its money…

AME Awards: What was a defining moment in your career?

Robert Mitchell: My first management role in an agency where I was suddenly confronted with the need to create profits for the shareholders and not just great work for our clients. However, I soon realised that many of the same principles that apply to good creativity also apply to good business management and accountancy. After that, I really started to enjoy the business management side. Now, after several decades spent managing other people’s agencies, I recently opened my own and I guess that was the defining moment to top all other defining moments.

AME Awards: What’s your favourite ad that you created?

Robert Mitchell: A long time ago, I made a satirical ad for a German news magazine called Der Spiegel that featured German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and his cabinet as a rock band singing that they didn’t like Mondays, the day the ever watchful and critical weekly Spiegel magazine is released. We had a ball shooting the commercial in the style of a 1980s music video in an old studio at Shepperton, near London, with some of the team who’d worked with cult band Spinal Tap.

AME Awards: In your opinion, what is your favourite ad that embodies both creativity and effectiveness?

Robert Mitchell: I saw this ad among the Chip Shop Awards winners in the UK last week and just couldn’t stop laughing — US President-elect Donald Trump on behalf of a British sperm donor initiative. (I hope this doesn’t mean my US visa status will now be changed…?)

AME Awards: What inspires you?

Robert Mitchell: My three children and the positive way that they approach the world every day, filled with hope and new ideas. 

AME Awards: What philosophy drives your career?

Robert Mitchell: It’s easier to make bouillabaisse out of an aquarium than the other way around; but aquariums are beautiful things in marketing terms, they’re not easy to create but always worth striving for.

AME Awards: What iconic individual (past or present) from advertising would choose to join the AME Jury, and why?

Robert Mitchell: In 1956, there was a Swedish designer called Gillis Lundgren who bought a table but couldn’t fit it into the back of his car to take it home, so he unscrewed the legs with the plan to reassemble the table later. Then he went to his employers at IKEA and the idea for a new kind of furniture store was born, where the customers help to make the products. Even if he didn’t work directly in advertising, he’s one smart guy and I think he’d be a big fan of AME Awards.